Trying to conceive

Couple eating toast in bedWhether you're a recent convert to the idea of having children or have been considering it for a while, then you're probably thinking along the lines of: junk the contraceptives and get jiggy with consenting adult for the conceivable future (pun intended).

Depending on the sex of your partner, of course, the technicalities of trying to get pregnant may vary.

The unknown factor is how many times you'll get to enjoy contraceptive-free sex before you get a Big Fat Positive. Days, months, years?

The NHS says around nine out of 10 couples conceive within a year of trying and around half of those who have been trying for a year will conceive the following year. The remaining women may need medical help to conceive and a small number may not be able to have children.


If you're thinking in advance about getting pregnant (as opposed to discovering you already are), then it's worth giving yourself and your baby-to-be the best possible start.

Preconception, as this stage is known, is a good preparation for parenthood because it involves self-denial, visits to your GP and, for some women, a fair amount of worry.

This is the self-denial part.

Current government advice is to stop drinking alcohol if you're planning a pregnancy (and also during pregnancy). If you follow this advice at least you'll be certain when your baby was conceived.

Smoking can reduce your fertility, ditto drugs, so expert advice is that you ditch the fags and any 'recreational' drugs before you try to get pregnant.

As you'd expect, a balanced diet and regular exercise are recommended to ensure you start pregnancy as a paragon of healthy living. 

Make sure your partner is also on a clean-living kick because poor nutrition, smoking and heavy drinking all lower the quality and quantity of sperm.

The same goes for his 'n' hers weight - too high or too low and it can impair fertility for either gender. If you need encouragement or advice to reduce your BMI, then get stuck into our Talk weight loss club.

If you struggle to gain weight, ask if you can be referred to a dietitian by your GP.

Trying for a baby

Make an appointment to see your GP and expect at least some of the following:

  • Full medical history - if there's a genetic disorder in your family, you may be referred for genetic testing and counselling
  • Cervical smear - your GP will check you're up to date or arrange for you to have one done if you're not
  • Urine analysis - this can detect any infections and other problems early on
  • Blood test - your doctor may check for anaemia and screen for any potential problems
  • Blood pressure - too high and you (and your future pregnancy) could be at risk
  • Vaccinations - now's the time if you need any immunisations, for example against rubella (German measles) and varicella (the virus which causes chickenpox and shingles).
  • Sexually transmitted infections screening - better to know now and get them treated than find out once you're pregnant
  • Toxoplasmosis test - it's most often transmitted through cat faeces or undercooked meat but a simple blood test can determine whether you've already had it and are immune - one less thing to worry about once you're pregnant
  • Review of existing health conditions and medication (eg, asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, heart disease, depression) - your GP can explain how will they affect any future pregnancy
  • Review the type of contraception you were previously using  - it can take a while for certain types of contraception (eg contraceptive injections) to stop working
  • Any other business - don't know whether you've had/have chlamydia, worried because your mum had postnatal depression after you - whatever your fears, discuss them with your GP now, before you get pregnant

Your GP will also advise to you take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid supplement while you're trying to get pregnant (and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy) to help prevent serious brain abnormalities in your baby.

If you have a family history of neural tube defects or a chronic health condition, such as epilepsy, you may need to take a higher daily dose, and your GP will advise you.

Practice nurses also do preconception care, along with health visitors, family planning clinics and well-woman clinics.

What Mumsnetters say about trying to conceive

  • It took us a while the first time as we literally didn't have a clue about ovulation calendars etc, learnt all that off Mumsnet and conceived first time the second time round. FiveGoMadInDorset
  • Over two years, we completely changed our diet (no red meat, no cow dairy, no caffeine, no alcohol, no aspartame, as few additives as possible), took up yoga, acupuncture, reflexology etc. Doing this made me feel like we were contributing to the process and that we had some control in the whole ghastly process. In the end, I got pregnant the month before our IVF treatment was due to start but continued the lifestyle changes all the way through pregnancy and beyond. Littlefish
  • We had tried for 12 months to get pregnant and toddled off to doctors. She asked us to temperature chart to check ovulation and then a month later had blood tests around day 7 (I think) and day 21. Also had ovary scan but can't remember if this was early on or late in my cycle. My husband also had to have a sperm test. eyelash


Image: Shutterstock

Last updated: 7 months ago